Boost for Down as Gerard McGovern returns from Australia

Gerard McGovern closes down Monaghan's Conor McManus at Clones .Picture Colm O'Reilly
Gerard McGovern closes down Monaghan's Conor McManus at Clones .Picture Colm O'Reilly Gerard McGovern closes down Monaghan's Conor McManus at Clones .Picture Colm O'Reilly

EXPERIENCED full-back Gerard McGovern has returned to the Down squad for this season. The Burren clubman was the mainstay of the Mourne county defence in their run to the Ulster final in 2017 under the late Eamonn Burns but hasn’t played since early 2018.

The versatile former QUB star featured in the victory over Louth in Down’s Division Two opener that year but then confirmed that he was leaving the panel to go travelling. He has returned from Australia and is expected to link up with Paddy Tally’s squad when inter-county training resumes this evening.

“Gerard is back from Australia and he’s a fantastic addition for Burren and Down,” said McGovern’s club and county team-mate Kevin McKernan.

“He had a fantastic year at full-back under Eamonn Burns when we got to the Ulster final and he brings a lot of power and it’s encouraging for Down in an area where we fell short against Cavan (in last year’s dramatic Ulster Championship semi-final against the eventual winners).”

McGovern and McKernan got their first opportunity to train with new Burren manager Jim McCorry last week. McKernan did spend a season with the former Armagh player, manager and, most recently, assistant-manager when he guided Down to promotion from Division Two in 2014.

“I really enjoyed that year,” said McKernan.

“Unfortunately things didn’t work out there but Jim is a fantastic coach, a fantastic man and he connected with the Burren panel and chatted with us throughout the lockdown.

“Everybody was delighted to run out onto the pitch and get started. Anyone who has worked with Jim will know the type of guy he is – he is very well prepared and structured and he is a great coach with good men around him. So it’s very exciting for us to get a fresh voice and fresh ideas.”

Meanwhile, McKernan paid tribute to his long-term Down team-mate Conor Maginn who quit the inter-county game at the end of last season after a dozen years’ of loyal service in the red and black jersey.

“Conor was an absolute stalwart for Down,” said McKernan of the Bryansford clubman.

“He’s been there as long as I have and when I was going into battle over the years I knew Conor would be by my side and putting in a shift. He’ll be a big miss for us but he owes nothing to Down.”